RALEIGH, N.C. – Among the many laments Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has right now is that seven players remain out likely for the final four games of the season.
Once a team is officially eliminated from the playoffs, coaches often experiment with their lineup and offer players new roles to see if it’s something they can build upon for next season.
Tonight, the Flyers meet the Hurricanes, who are also sitting out the postseason.
Laviolette said on Friday he may change some things up. He wishes that Zac Rinaldo (severe high-ankle sprain) were available to him.
“We’re still gonna prepare and practice and get ready to play and win a hockey game, first and foremost,” Laviolette said.
“You look at certain things. You try some personnel in certain situations. Whether its power play or penalty kill.
“It would be great to have Zac in here right now working on the penalty kill and trying to get a little time. That’s just a for-instance. There is opportunity to do that.”
Those available may find different roles, perhaps different lines, or increased ice time. This is a learning process for the coaching staff and management now to make decisions for next season.
“Certainly … there might be opportunities for some guys to be put into situations and roles,” Laviolette said.
Already, there has been some subtle changes. Such as: Laviolette moved Erik Gustafsson up to the first defensive pair with Kimmo Timonen once Kent Huskins was concussed.
Gustafsson’s ice time catapulted from 17 minutes to a career-high 25:52 against New Jersey this week. He has consistently been in the mid-20s for six games now and is plus-2 over that stretch.
Rookie Brandon Manning, who now has six NHL games under his belt going back to last season, officially replaced Huskins, and has played with Kurtis Foster, logging 16:25 against the Devils.
Fellow rookie Oliver Lauridsen remains with Luke Schenn. He saw his ice time spike to nearly 20 minutes against the Rangers, then fall back to 13:40 against the Devils. He also had a fighting major in there that cost him time on the ice against New Jersey.
Lauridsen has played 11 games so far.
“They both played a good game for not having a lot of experience,” Laviolette said of Manning and Lauridsen.
“With so many guys out, sometimes you recall a player and you got five-year regulars in the lineup and they are coming in and adding to a core [group]. A lot of new guys that are stepping into new roles and positions out there and they have done a good job for us.
“It’s our first look at Oliver. I think he has played a simple game, a physical game … moving people around, being physical in the defensive zone. He is a big presence out there.
“As far as Manning goes, he has come up and picked up where he left off last year. He’s a good steady, two-way defenseman that has an edge to him.”
There are also likely some personal goals involved here, as well.
Jakub Voracek already has a career-high 19 goals. He would like to finish with at least 20. He has 43 points in 44 games. The only other player at or close to finishing the season as a point-a-game player is Claude Giroux, who has 44 points in as many games.
“I’m just going out to win the game,” Voracek said. “If I score 20, fine. There is nothing I should be excited about at this point.”
General manager Paul Holmgren is on this trip. ... The Flyers have one final road trip next weekend to playoff bound Ottawa. ... Steve Mason starts in goal vs. Carolina. The 'Canes have a very hard, aggressive forecheck and Laviolette wants to try and negate that with a goalie who plays the puck. ... Injured defenseman Braydon Coburn (left shoulder separation) also made the trip.